Intellectual property is an incredibly valuable asset across the globe. In 2020, exports of intellectual property from the UK reached 17.4 billion pounds, marking the height of a gradual increase sine 2011. However, intellectual property has become increasingly difficult to protect – and even more complicated to frame legally.
From longstanding High Court battles over alleged song plagiarism to much smaller copyright claims through platforms like YouTube, any artist needs to know the potential processes for defending their work. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about intellectual property in the UK.
What is intellectual property?
Intellectual property is a specific type of protection aimed to stop other people from copying or stealing your own authentic work. From the names and characteristic designs of your products or brands to original inventions and song lyrics, it’s vital to maintain and protect your integrity. The different types of intellectual property (IP) protection recognised in the UK include:
- Trademarks, registered and unregistered
- Designs, registered and unregistered
- Trade secrets
What does it mean when intellectual property is not respected?
Anyone can own intellectual property: if you created something and it meets the requirements for protection through copyright, or any other type of IP, your rights will never be contested. These protections mean that, as a creator, you can benefit financially from your own work.
However, since intellectual property is also often released to and shared amongst the public, protecting it can prove problematic. Intellectual property infringement is the violation of an intellectual property right and includes theft, using a design or creation without permission, or authorising someone else to do so.
What are your rights?
The principal rights of intellectual property are divided into registered and unregistered rights. If you plan on launching in the UK, it is recommended to register your brands as trademarks, creating both an asset and a defined right to exercise if necessary.
Unregistered rights in a brand are established over time through reputation and goodwill. The owner of an established but unregistered brand should be able to prevent third parties from emulating any aspect of their brand, but this approach comes with disadvantages.
How can you protect your intellectual property?
We always recommend protecting intellectual property belonging to you or your brand. There are currently two ways to obtain a registered trademark in the UK. These are:
- Through a national UK trademark application; and
- An international trademark application, assigned EU or EUTM
Handling the pressures of releasing a new product to the market warrants professional support. If you’re working with cutting-edge technologies, consulting specialist advice could give you an additional safety net to promote the integrity of your own designs.